One of the more interesting keeper choices I have in one league this offseason is Cubs left-hander Travis Wood. It was late in my auction draft and I was looking for some unheralded young arms who people seemed to be overlooking yet could be in line for a potential breakout. I ended up with Wood for $3. I could have gotten him for a buck, but one guy was simply trying to get people to eat through their remaining bid money and he forced me into the extra money. Given what I had left, I had no problem throwing down the extra cash and I’m happy I did as he put together a fantastic season for himself. Now, given our league inflation rate, he’ll only go to $4 for this year, but the question is, is he still worth it? Does he still have what I saw in him last March and can that be brought to the table once again?
When I first looked at him, Wood was entering his fourth season in the majors last year and intrigued me as a potential breakout candidate. He was a fly ball pitcher who, despite playing his first two seasons with Great American Ballpark as his home, somehow managed to keep the ball in the yard, posting a HR/FB of under 7.0-percent. He lost a little off his strikeout rate and added a few extra walks during his sophomore campaign, but in each of those first two years, he also posted an FIP that said that he was a better pitcher than his ERA indicated.
In his third season, his first with the Cubs, he got bitten by the long ball a little more, but went back to fixing his walk and strikeout rates. Despite that being the first time his ERA outperformed his FIP, I still felt like there was more on the horizon and that his fourth year would be the one where he’d put it all together. The growth I saw may have been slight and a little all-over the place, but there were a few indications that said he was a better pitcher than what some of these numbers were saying.
While I wasn’t completely right, I was pretty darn close. He dropped a touch in strikeouts, but with slightly better command and a bit of a change in his pitch mix (more slider and cutter, less curve and four-seamer) he posted a fantastic 3.11 ERA and went on a series of runs throughout the year that seemed improbable, but yet he was making the magic happen. I distinctly remember a time early on when I was quietly researching him to see just when the right time would be to trade him and our own Michael Barr posted an analysis that gave me further reason to hold him. His analysis of changes in pitch mix and release points gave me some additional hope, and if there was an wavering doubt, at least I had some good points to use when offering him up in trade talks.
I couldn’t trade him for anything, though, as many continued to cite his seemingly too-low BABIP (even though it had been that low before) and his depressingly high xFIP. Not to mention the fact that his one month of struggles, August, was trade deadline time so everyone just assumed that these were the wheels falling off the wagon, as perhaps Barr indicated towards the end of his piece. However, having been able to put him on the bench for most of that month and been unable to trade him, I was privy to one final month of 28 innings at a 3.21 ERA.
So again, the question is whether or not he’ll be worth keeping at the $4 price tag, and while I’m grateful for what he did for me last season, I have to say no. While his final month was still positive for me, the .261 BAA and the .340 wOBA he allowed that month indicated a lot more luck than usual for him. If I take a late season downturn and I couple that with the fact that no one…and I mean no one…believed in him, then I feel like the $4 is actually three bucks too many. I may take a shot at him again for a buck and see if I can catch lightning in a bottle twice, but we all tend to know how those plans always end up.
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